Gonzaga reaches highest ranking ever

Monday, February 23rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Gonzaga has made some deep runs in the NCAA tournament and now has its highest AP Top 25 ranking: No. 4.

The Bulldogs, whose only losses this season are to Stanford and Saint Joseph's, moved up two spots in The Associated Press men's basketball poll Monday.

Stanford and Saint Joseph's each won two games last week to remain the nation's only unbeaten teams and stayed 1-2 in the poll.

Gonzaga (23-2) was sixth last week, matching its spot for the final two weeks of 2001-02. Wins last week over Portland _ the game when John Stockton's jersey was retired and the Bulldogs clinched the West Coast Conference regular season title_ and at Tulsa moved the Bulldogs up two places.

Gonzaga reached the regional final in 1999, losing to eventual national champion Connecticut, and made it to the round of 16 the next two years.

Stanford (23-0) beat Southern California and UCLA on the road last week to hold the No. 1 spot for a second straight week, while Saint Joseph's (24-0) had wins over Fordham and Temple.

For the second week in a row Stanford had a 64-8 advantage in first-place votes from the national media panel, but the Hawks closed the point gap slightly, from 70 to 59.

Pittsburgh (24-2) moved up two spots to third, the Panthers' highest ranking since they were No. 2 for two weeks last season.

Duke, which snapped a two-game losing streak with a win over Maryland on Sunday, dropped from third to fifth and was followed by Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Connecticut, Kentucky and Texas.

Wake Forest, which beat Duke and Georgia Tech last week, jumped four spots to No. 11. The Demon Deacons were followed by North Carolina, Providence, North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Southern Illinois, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Memphis and Kansas.

The last five ranked teams were Louisville, Wisconsin, Illinois, Utah State and Texas Tech.

Illinois and Utah State returned to the Top 25 this week, replacing LSU and South Carolina, who fell out from 24th and 25th.

The Fighting Illini (18-5) fell out of the poll for five weeks after being ranked all season and getting as high as No. 11. They re-entered on a six-game winning streak, including victories last week over Wisconsin and Penn State.

Utah State (22-2) made its first poll appearance since 1971 three weeks ago, but fell out last week after losing at Pacific. The Aggies are back in following wins over UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.

LSU (17-6) moved into the Top 25 last week for the first time this season, but playing without injured leading scorer and rebounder Jamie Lloreda the Tigers lost to Auburn and Vanderbilt.

South Carolina (20-6) was ranked for the last five weeks, never getting higher than 24th. The Gamecocks lost to Arkansas in their only game last week.

The loss of LSU and South Carolina cut the Southeastern Conference's number of ranked teams in half with Mississippi State and Kentucky the only league members still in the Top 25.

Louisville and Wisconsin joined LSU as ranked teams to lose two games last week, and both took a big fall in the poll.

Louisville (17-6) has lost five of its last six games, including last week's losses to Texas Christian and Cincinnati. The Cardinals, who were ranked No. 4 last month, fell 11 places to No. 21.

Wisconsin (17-6) lost consecutive games for the first time in 13 months. The road losses to Illinois and Michigan saw the Badgers fall from No. 12 to 22nd.

North Carolina State plays two games this week against ranked teams. The 14th-ranked Wolfpack play at No. 18 Georgia Tech on Wednesday and host No. 12 North Carolina on Sunday.